Horror Prisons: Top 13 Most Terrifying Fictional Facilities

How would you like to be jailed underground on a planet where the surface is too scalding hot to touch, or locked up in an asylum with the most depraved of criminals, where the corrupt guards are just as crazy as the inmates? Real-life prisons are scary enough, but some fictional prisons take the terror of being locked up to a whole new level. These 13 nightmare prisons from films, novels and comic books go beyond a mere lack of freedom, introducing man-eating monsters, mental manipulation and unexplained medical examinations.

Limbo – THX 1138

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A dystopian vision of the future made in 1969 by pre-Star Wars George Lucas, THX1138 takes place in an underground city where citizens are forced to use drugs that suppress emotions. The prison in THX1138 is a bizarre white wall-less ‘limbo’ world where lawbreakers languish, subjected to interrogations and mysterious medical examinations.

Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 – Alien 3

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In Alien 3, heroine Ellen Ripley awakens from hibernation to find that her space ship has crashed on the planet Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, a bleak rock with blazing hot temperatures during the day and freezing temperatures at night. No life exists here – except for 22 maximum risk prisoners being held in a correctional unit, and a handful of overseers. As if that weren’t bad enough, Ripley has unwittingly brought an alien egg to this prison planet, resulting in one gory death after another.

Azkaban Prison – Harry Potter

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You might think, Harry Potter is a kids’ story – how scary can this prison be? For starters, Azkaban is a remote fortress in the middle of a roiling sea holding the likes of Bellatrix Lestrange, a deranged murderer and torturer. Then there are all those creepy ‘dementors’ swirling around in the air beyond the prison, ready to suck out the soul of anyone who comes near.

Minority Report

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So-called criminals are apprehended before they have even committed a crime in Minority Report, where three psychics called ‘precogs’ warn the authorities of events which may come to pass. Not only are citizens imprisoned for acts they haven’t actually carried out, they’re tossed into a bizarre facility where they’re kept in individual pods, seemingly peaceful yet perpetually bombarded with images of the crimes of which they’ve been accused of contemplating.

Crematoria Triple-Max Prison – Chronicles of Riddick

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Described as ‘hell on earth’, Crematoria is a ‘triple maximum security’ prison, reserved for the most dangerous criminals and located deep inside a planet with a surface so extreme as to be uninhabitable. It’s so blazing hot during the day and freezing at night that there’s only a 20-minute period when travel on the surface is even possible. Staying alive is a daunting enough challenge, let alone trying to escape.

The Dark City

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No sun ever rises to illuminate the shadowy world of Dark City, where inhabitants become temporarily comatose at night while mysterious beings called Strangers alter not just the city, but the identities and memories of the people. What the Dark City denizens don’t realize (spoiler alert!) is that they’re all trapped on a prison planet where they’re the focus of one big alien experiment.

Blackgate Penitentiary – Batman

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Located on a small island in Gotham Bay, Blackgate Penitentiary is the home of Gotham City’s slightly less terrifying criminals like the Penguin and Catman spend their time (the others, of course, are held in an even more frightening and far more well known facility). Blackgate is rumored to make an appearance in the upcoming Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

Asylum Prison – Blindness by Jose Saramago

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A sudden plague of blindness spreads across the globe in the novel Blindness by Jose Saramago (and the film based on the novel, starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo). All those afflicted are forced by the government into isolation in an asylum, which becomes a chaotic, gloomy and hopeless prison.

Cthon by Piers Anthony

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In this 1967 novel by Piers Anthony, the underground prison known as Cthon houses criminals that get more dangerous the further one travels beneath the surface. Somewhere in the bowels of the prison, labyrinthine tunnels are rumored to hold the one and only escape route. Too bad they’re also apparently home to a man-eating monster that kills escapees one by one.

CryoPrison – Demolition Man

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Two men – one a true criminal, the other a falsely accused police officer – are sent to ‘CryoPrison’ in 1996, where they’re cryogenically frozen and rehabilitated through subconscious suggestion, ‘implanted’ with new interests and hobbies to replace their criminal impulses. They awaken in the year 2032, when crime seems to have been abolished, and find that their minds have been manipulated in all sorts of disturbing ways.

Absolom – No Escape

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Though arguably not the greatest movie ever, ‘No Escape’ (released in some areas as Escape from Absolom) features an irrefutably terrifying prison – an island where the worst of the worst criminals engage in brutal fights… and sometimes eat each other.

Torture Prison – V for Vendetta

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Rounded up for her role in a brewing revolution headed up by a mysterious man in a Guy Fawkes mask, Natalie Portman’s character Evie is hauled into a dark prison, interrogated and tortured. While the experience isn’t quite what it seems, it’s transformative, and still utterly terrifying to anyone who has ever feared persecution by a totalitarian government.

Arkham Asylum – Batman

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If you’re in Arkham Asylum, you may not be in the sort of mental state that would allow you to even notice the corruption and depravity that’s going on all around you – but not everyone at Arkham is actually crazy. This psychiatric hospital doesn’t just hold patients in need of care, it imprisons criminals that aren’t quite sane enough to be kept at Blackgate Penitentiary. In the game Batman: Arkham Asylum, fires that break out at Blackgate necessitate moving many of the Joker’s goons to Arkham which leads, of course, to utter chaos. The game allows players to virtually explore the asylum, confronting all of the horrors hidden within.